Planting Trees Is Threading Through Life – OpEd


A young boy in one of our tree planting activities asked me last year, “Sir, why do we plant po?”. I started to answer but stopped short of giving the relatively technical and ecological reasons.

I do not entirely recall how I answered but the question remains in my mind. Years of tilling the soil, weeding a good space, pushing a shovel to dig a cozy space for seedlings while running the rich dark and sometime gravelly soil and pulling off weeds that choke the poor seedlings, have become all too routine,

Now, I am asked most too often why I do what I do. The very basic reason lies in God’s calling for us to be stewards of His creation. And as stewards, we plant to replace God’s creation that have been killed, destroyed and ruined.

And nothing has changed. I’m 54 and have been planting since 1992. I’m still here. I have a hard time believing I am still here. The feeling is strange even if I know I am not a stranger to what I do. This kind of work is a blessing, but addicting. It pulls me to go on every year.

However, things are changing. Those who know me know to take this with a grain of salt. It may not be long before I let the younger ones take over. Next year may definitely be my last year. I have a consultancy work to give time to, a grandson to look after, a book to write, and pending articles that have earned the ire of my editors. And, physically, climbing mountains and trails, are becoming albeit, more difficult. I may even accept a professorial lecturing position part-time.

There have been challenges as trees continue to feel the threat that we create and I kept a relatively positive mental attitude. This year I am in high spirits, but with a fatalistic frame of mind. On the plane coming back here, I day dreamed about coming home; my kids, the food, my plants, dogs, unread book chapters… I know the feeling of relief that home brings all too well. I also know too well all is not well.

Evenings are the most difficult. Daytime and mornings are much better. It has been almost a year now. When the cold comes at dusk, I feel awkward. I feel no rhythm to my weary legs. I feel much better moving around, especially when it is warm.

I have a commitment to plant 2,000 hectares with trees, restore its biodiversity and help provide livelihood to some 500 indigenous families. Also, I have my farm to think of….my my mind is almost always somewhere far-off…thinking of the tree plantings that have yet to be done.

Sometimes we wish for more time, more opportunities, but we know reality tells us otherwise.

The horizon may not always be there. So I am thankful dearly for all that have been and was.

Dr. Michael A. Bengwayan

Dr. Michael A. Bengwayan wrote for the British Panos News and Features and GEMINI News Service, the Brunei Times, and US Environment News Service. In the Philippines, he wrote for DEPTHNews of the Press Foundation of Asia, Today, the Philippine Post, and Vera Files. A practicing environmentalist, he holds postgraduate degrees in environment resource management and development studies as a European Union (EU) Fellow at University College, Dublin, Ireland. He is currently a Fellow of Echoing Green Foundation of New York City. He now writes for Business Mirror and Eurasia Review.

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